The former Saatchi & Saatchi parking lot at The Rocks has been transformed into a distillery, bar and restaurant. Meet Hickson House, a gin anthem featuring tours, tastings and sizzling cocktails under high ceilings and sparkling chandeliers. It’s the creation of Mikey Enright and Julian Train of the Barrelhouse Group, which operates other gin-focused establishments, The Duke of Clarence and The Barber Shop.
The hero of Hickson House is its eponymous gin line.
“We’ve been planning the launch for two years,” says chief distiller Tim Stones (ex-Manly Spirits). “Because of the pandemic, I spent a year and a half distilling in my garage. Once I had made a batch, I would drop a bottle at Mike’s and another at Julian’s (Covid-safe, of course) and then we would discuss it on Zoom.
This remote collaboration resulted in three drops. London Dry is a classic infused with angelica roots and iris and, for an Australian twist, old man savory. It goes well in a Martini. Harbor Strength follows the same recipe, but with greater intensity and higher alcohol content (57 percent vs. 40 percent for London Dry). Australian Dry is a locally inspired concoction of licorice root, orange peel, oolong tea, native thyme, lime and anise myrtle.
All three are created on site in custom made copper stills. To see them in action, take a tour of the distillery, which includes a tasting. It’ll set you back $ 40, of which $ 5 is redeemable on an insanely cute Hobbit-sized cellar door purchase.
At the bar, Raphael Redant (ex-Stitch) transforms the trio of house gins – alongside 600 other gins from around the world – into G&T, Martinis and signature cocktails. Go local with Native Martini (Australian Dry, dry vermouth, native thyme oil, and peppery berry tincture), or tangy with Gimlet (Australian Dry, blood lime, lemon scented gum, and Geraldton wax distillate). There is also a long list of international whiskeys and a nice collection of wines.
Chef David Penistone (The Duke of Clarence) oversees the menu.
“We see ourselves as a step up from a gastro pub,” says Enright Large format sheet. “The menu is accessible, modern Australian, with small and large plates to share, as well as individual main courses. People are welcome to come and eat and drink as they please, whether they want to join friends and feast the night away, or sit alone and have a main course.
Like the drinks, the dishes are sprinkled with local ingredients. Plates to share include salt-roasted shrimp with charred lime and chili, squid sprinkled with flour with lime and peppery berries, and kangaroo tartare with horseradish, Vegemite and toast.
Main courses range from a signature seven-spice chicken cutlet to a pureblood Wagyu rump with smoked bone marrow butter and Davidson plum and fig juice or chutney.
British interior designer Sara Mather and Sydney’s Steel and Stitch were commissioned to transform the car park, which is part of the heritage listed Metcalfe Bond Stores, into Hickson House. This required preserving the striking masonry of the century-old building, wooden beams and large spaces, while creating room for 150 guests. On the ground floor, a spectacular wall of illuminated gin bottles decorates the bar and dining room; on the mezzanine level is the more intimate High & Dry bar. Seating ranges from roomy bar stools and wooden chairs to comfy sofas lit by lamps.
“We had long in mind to start a distillery,” says Enright, who has spent decades working in the gin industry. “We were lucky when we found this space. We immediately fell in love with it. “
Hickson House Distilling Co
6 Hickson Road, Dawes Point
(02) 8999 3852
from Tue to Sat from 4 p.m. to midnight
Sun 4 pm-10pm